Selfish is as selfish does

I was recently in an online exchange with a lady justifying her family’s shooting off fireworks nearing midnight. She responded to a post where I said that I was thankful that the blood of Jesus covered the sins of people pursuing selfish pleasure like using fireworks late at night when people are trying to sleep. Her response to my initial note about this (on a public bulletin board):

What a ridiculous thing to say. How about we show a gracious attitude one or two days a year (4th of July and New Years’ Eve) to the families and friends enjoying each others company and celebrating the holiday. It wasn’t even completely dark until 9pm last night. It took us over an hour just to set off the little package of fireworks and sparklers we bought to entertain our 2 and 3 year old. The big fireworks at the lake were still going off when we went inside so I am sure there were those who came home from that and set off a few more at home. My kids were excited, our 3 dogs were crazy, my husband needed to get to bed so he could get up at 6am this morning. Big deal. It is one day a year.

Saying that doing fireworks 2 hours after dark on the 4th is sinful and the comments about selfish pleasures, horrible death of Jesus on the cross and repentance in relation to fireworks 2 hours after dark on the 4th of July (yes, that needs repeating) is absolutely asinine. It is those sort of comments that lead non-believers to think that Christians are a bunch of judgmental yahoos. A gracious attitude goes much further.

I didn’t know whether she was saying she wasn’t selfish, that selfishness wasn’t sin or that Jesus’ death isn’t required to cover sins like selfishness. Based on her thought on graciousness, she clearly doesn’t understand the Gospel at all. I am stuck by how many people in the south are just like this – defending their own righteousness rather than simply embracing the free gift. Grace only makes sense in the light of our sinful unworthiness. The simple fact is this lady loved her pleasure more than the peace and well being of those around her. She could have chosen to stay home so her husband could do their fireworks earlier, could have chosen to do their fireworks at another time or place, could have taught her kids that the laws about fireworks and disturbing the peace should be honored, even if it cost them something. She chose none of these but rather to feed her own desire to see smiles on her kids faces and good “family time”.

I have sinned worse than most people and I never killed anyone to my knowledge. Most sinners are not axe murderers. Most sinners are selfish or unkind or angry with their spouse or like impurity. To God, sin is sin. He will punish all sin the same way. The best news is that all the punishment for all these simple sins, as well as the big ones, was already poured out on Jesus on the cross for all those who put their trust in Him.

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2 thoughts on “Selfish is as selfish does

  1. Jan Evett July 20, 2010 / 5:10 am

    Michael, I usually enjoy your posts, however (you saw that coming, I’m sure) I am disappointed in your sentence: “I am stuck by how many people in the south are just like this – defending their own righteousness rather than simply embracing the free gift.” First, I think you meant struck rather than “stuck” although there may be some irony in that typo error. Secondly, I live in the South – as in the Southern part of the United States. Exactly how many of the people here in the south are you judging by your statement? You mentioned “how many” – how many would that be in your estimation? Perhaps you are speaking with a more worldly knowledge of some other “south” – perhaps the south of France, or South Africa, or maybe even the South Pole. Your response was more childish, errant, and sinful than her rant against your post. Not everyone is going to agree with everything you post, and if you thought otherwise, perhaps it is time to show some graciousness and maturity when people respond to the work of your hands. I think the most offensive part of your reply to this woman was when you judged her as one “not embracing the free gift.” Were you referring to the free gift of salvation? Or did you mean the free gift of agreeing with your point of view? I hope you meant the latter because I don’t think you have the right to judge the former. I think you owe her a sincere repentant apology. The rest of us ignorant, ungrateful, and self-righteous southern sinners will be just fine without one.

    • michaelkeating July 20, 2010 / 3:02 pm

      Thanks Jan. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. I fixed the typo and thought a lot about the content of your comment.

      I certainly wish I had the chance to actually talk with this lady as opposed to a back and forth on a bulletin board. I actually said that I would not get into a back and forth with her about it. I learned a lot about myself and my communication style in this.

      The thing that hit me about her position is at the same time as she was demanding grace from those around her, she was saying she deserved it. She admitted that she was selfish but did not believe selfishness was the kind of sin that Jesus had to die for to reconcile people to God, which is obviously contrary to the Bible. When I hear someone claim they deserve grace because they are good at other times it does concern me because if it is about their performance then grace is no longer grace (Romans 11:6).

      My comment about people in the south – meaning the south of the US also referred to as the Bible Belt – is in contrast to people in the north. In the north people by and large just don’t care that they sin. They are indifferent to God, even hostile. I do find that people who profess to be Christians in the south justify their position by their conduct a lot. That’s just the experience of one guy who has lived here seven years and there 33, but it’s a stark contrast to me. When I say “how many people in the south” it really is relative to “how many people in the north” respond that way, not that many or most professing Christians in the south overall. I will be more careful to explain the genesis of my thoughts.

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